Corydoras paleatus- Pepper Cory

Corydoras paleatus is one of the easiest Corydoras species to keep. They are very robust and are reasonably resistant to various water conditions. It is a schooling fish so keep them with at least 6 of their own kind!

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Corydoras paleatus – Pepper Cory

Corydoras paleatus was described in 1842 by Jenyns. He used specimens brought back by Charles Darwin from his voyage aboard HMS Beagle in the years 1831 to 1836. Their common name is Pepper Cory.

The genus name Corydoras consists of two parts: Cory means “helmet” and doras means “skin”. The name is a reference to the double row of bony plates under the skin on the flank of this genus. These bony plates act as a kind of armor, hence the common collective name for this group of fish: Armored Catfish. Due to the possession of the bony plates, they do not need any further protection, so they do not have scales. Together with the spiny anterior dorsal and pectoral fin rays, they make a difficult snack for predators.

The French ichthyologist Carbonnier was the first to breed the Pepper Cory in captivity, back in 1878. Even now this is one of the most popular and easily available Corydoras species.

Synonyms: Callichthys paleatus, Corydoras maculatus, Corydoras marmoratus, Corydoras microcephalus, Corydoras paleatus, Silurus quadricostatus.


Corydoras paleatus females can reach a maximum total length of about 7.5 centimeters. The males usually remain somewhat smaller with their 6.5 centimeters. This is one of the differences to tell males from females. Men are a bit smaller but also a bit slimmer. Especially when the females are ready to lay eggs, the abdomen is much rounder when viewed from above.

Corydoras difference male and female. When viewed from above, the male's abdomen slopes back toward the caudal fin behind the pectoral fin. The belly of the female is a bit fuller and only later tapers back to the caudal fin. The shape of the pelvic fin is pointed in the male and rounded in the female.
Corydoras difference male and female. When viewed from above, the male’s abdomen slopes back toward the caudal fin behind the pectoral fin. The belly of the female is a bit fuller and only later tapers back to the caudal fin. The shape of the pelvic fin is pointed in the male and rounded in the female.

The ground color of the Pepper Cory is light brown to bronze with dark spots and speckles. Four black spots are visible on the back. The first at the base of the anterior dorsal fin ray, the second at the end of the dorsal fin. The third black spot is around the adipose fin and the fourth on the caudal peduncle.

Under the right light, a reflective green sheen can sometimes be seen. The belly is light in color and has no spots. The fins are transparent but, like the body, have dark spots.

Like all Corydoras, they mainly swim around on the bottom. When kept in a school of sufficient size, they do not care much for other fish species. In a group that is too small, they often become a bit shy and skittish.


With the help of the pectoral fins, Corydoras paleatus can produce sounds. During courtship before laying eggs, the males emit long series of pulsating sounds. They make these sounds with their pectoral fins. Only the males make these long series of sounds. Under stress, they make singular sounds. Both the males, females and juveniles make these singular sounds.

Breathing air

Occasionally Corydoras paleatus dart to the surface of the water. They then take a breath of air. They force the air through their intestines. They extract oxygen from this air with their intestinal tract. This is an adaptation that allows them to absorb enough oxygen in shallow parts of their habitat. When it is very hot and the water hardly moves, it contains less oxygen.


A species very similar to Corydoras paleatus is Corydoras longipinnis. It has long been thought that Corydoras paleatus had a much wider distribution range. Both species have been mixed up during imports. The big Corydoras breeders have used both species to breed large numbers. This has created a hybrid form in the trade. Many fish offered are therefore a mixture of Corydoras paleatus and Corydoras longipinnis. Recognizable by the strongly elongated dorsal and pectoral fins.


Corydoras paleatus comes from the subtropical south of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. They are found, among other places, in the coastal rivers of southern Brazil, the basin of the Rio Paraná, Rio de La Plata and Rio Uruguay.

The Pepper Cory lives in subtropical areas where the water temperature is somewhat lower than in the Amazon area. Schliewen recorded temperatures of about 18 to 23 degrees Celsius in his 1992 paper.

The habitat where you can find them consists mainly of clear, slow-moving water. These can be smaller rivers and streams, but also the slow-flowing parts of bends in larger rivers. The soil usually consists of sand or detritus and many plants


In the wild, Corydoras paleatus is omnivorous. They eat worms, invertebrates, but also plant material.

In the aquarium, it is not a picky eater. You can feed them with flakes, granulate, but also live and frozen food. They are particularly fond of live mosquito larvae and tubifex. Make sure that enough food reaches the bottom and that not everything is eaten by the fish from the upper and middle water layer.

The shape of the body and the lower mouth show that Corydoras paleatus mainly live on the bottom. With their barbels, they root through the soft soil in search of some edible food. When setting up the aquarium, be sure to use a soft bottom such as sand. Sharp gravel can damage the barbels. If some dirt is left in the gravel, the barbels become infected and they can lose them.

The Aquarium

An aquarium from about 80 centimeters is sufficient to keep a small group of about six Corydoras paleatus. This leaves just enough room on the bottom for decoration and other bottom dwellers. You prefer to keep them in a somewhat larger school of 10 to 15 specimens in an aquarium of 100 centimeters in length.

Set up the aquarium with (filter) sand on the bottom. This is rounded sand that cannot damage the barbels. The other furnishings can consist of plants and some wood between which they can find some shelter.

It is a peaceful species that lives mainly on the bottom. They can therefore be excellently combined with varieties from the middle and upper layers. Only avoid species that are so large that they could mistake a Corydoras for food. Unfortunately, most predators who try to swallow a Corydoras die. The defense mechanism with the spiky pectoral and dorsal fin ensures that they get stuck in the throat.

As far as other bottom dwellers are concerned, species from the Loricariidae family are a good choice. They usually don’t care much about Corydoras. It is different with dwarf cichlids such as Apistogramma. Corydoras don’t care about the territory of the Apistogrammas, which causes a lot of stress for Apistogrammas.

Water parameters

The habitat of Corydoras paleatus is in the subtropical part of South America. The temperature may therefore be somewhat lower than you are used to from most Corydoras species. You can let the temperature fluctuate between 18 and 23 degrees Celsius, but a few degrees lower for a while is no problem. The pH for this species may be between 6.0 and 7.5.

This species is very tough. Sometimes they are kept in aquariums or even ponds where the temperature can drop to 8 degrees Celsius or even lower. We advise against keeping them at these low temperatures. Captive bred specimens are no longer used to this and need much longer to adapt to lower temperatures. Preferably keep the temperature above 16 degrees Celsius.

Don’t keep them too hot either. Maintain a temperature of no more than 25 degrees Celsius in the summer. In the winter months you can safely lower the temperature considerably. Gymnogeophagus comes from the same region and it is also advised to give it a colder winter period.

How old can Corydoras paleatus get?

In the wild, Corydoras paleatus usually does not grow very old, a maximum of five to 10 years. In the aquarium with the right setup and water parameters, they can reach an age of about 10 to 15 years.

Buying Corydoras paleatus

If you are going to buy Corydoras paleatus, take the time to look at them calmly. That way you can see if they are healthy and strong:

  1. See how they look globally. No distortions present? Are all fins and caudal fin still intact?
  2. View the barbels, are they still intact?
  3. Is the mouth still intact or is it damaged?
  4. Are they active, do they move through the aquarium?
  5. Is it wild caught? Have they been quarantined for at least two weeks?
  6. Always buy them in a group, they are group fish that you should not keep alone!

Vervoer van Corydoras

Corydoras soorten hebben een giftig zelfverdedigingsmechanisme om te voorkomen dat ze worden opgegeten door grotere vissen. In geval van gevaar kunnen ze de stekels in hun rugvin en borstvinnen uitspreiden en op slot zetten. Hierdoor blijven ze in de bek of keel van de aanvaller steken waardoor een andere vis het wel uit zijn hoofd laat om een Corydoras te willen doorslikken.

Ook bij het uitvangen van een Corydoras met een netjes blijven ze geregeld met deze stekels in het netje hangen. Pas op bij het losmaken, als de stekel in je huid komt kan hij gedeeltelijk afbreken en in de huid achterblijven. Deze wondjes zijn pijnlijk en gaan vaak ontsteken.


Naast de puntige stekels kunnen Corydoras een gifstof afgeven aan het water wanneer ze gestresst zijn of in gevaar verkeren. Bij vervoer in een te kleine hoeveelheid water of teveel Corydorassen in de kleine ruimte kan dit leiden tot snelle sterfte onder de vissen. Vervoer de Corydoras dus bij voorkeur alleen met andere Corydorassen en met niet teveel in één zak.

Het kenmerkende gifafgifteapparaat van een Doradidae meerval. In plaats van gifklieren langs de ruggengraat te vormen, zoals bij andere siluroïde meervallen, wordt het klierweefsel bij Doradidae gevonden in macroscopisch zichtbare aggregaties tussen de achterste vertandingen van de eerste vinstraal van de borst- en rugvin. Afkortingen: s = Vinstraal, ps = posterieure serrae (vertandingen), gt = Gifklier weefsel.
Het kenmerkende gifafgifteapparaat van een Doradidae meerval. In plaats van gifklieren langs de ruggengraat te vormen, zoals bij andere siluroïde meervallen, wordt het klierweefsel bij Doradidae gevonden in macroscopisch zichtbare aggregaties tussen de achterste vertandingen van de eerste vinstraal van de borst- en rugvin. Afkortingen: s = Vinstraal, ps = posterieure serrae (vertandingen), gt = Gifklier weefsel.

De gifklieren van Corydoras bevinden zich in de huid tussen de vertandingen op de voorste vinstraal van de borstvinnen en de rugvin. Wanneer ze door een andere vis worden aangevallen, zetten ze deze vinstralen op slot. De huid rondom deze vinstralen raakt beschadigd waarbij het gif vrijkomt. Zie de bijgaande foto van een meerval uit de Doradidae familie met gelijksoortige gifklieren.

Breeding aquarium and conditioning

In a mixed aquarium, where other species are also present, Corydoras often lay eggs. The eggs are often eaten by the parents and other species. Very occasionally you are lucky and an egg escapes and the young Corydoras paleatus manages to live long enough to become an adult.
If you want to successfully breed Corydoras paleatus you can either remove the parents after spawning or remove the eggs from the parent’s tank. In both cases you need a second aquarium that is well cycled.

The aquarium of the parents

Place an aquarium of about 50 centimeters in length. Set up the aquarium with some sand, filter and heater. Raise the temperature to about 23 degrees Celsius. Place a filter brush in the aquarium, the short filter brushes with green and black wires that are used in Koi filters are fine. Keep a few of these filter brushes on hand, you will still need them during the removal. Point the outflow of the filter at the filter brush.

Now place a group of adult Corydoras paleatus. Keep a ratio of two males to one female.

Now feed the fish with live food such as black mosquito larvae and tubifex for two weeks. Do not change water. The nitrate value may well rise to about 30 mg/litre. The females should slowly become thicker and rounder.

The aquarium for the eggs and fry

Take an aquarium of about 50 centimeters and place sand on the bottom. Use plenty of Java moss so that the hatched young Corydoras paleatus can prey on the single-celled organisms that live among the moss.
It is best to use a sponge filter as a filter. The young fish then do not run the risk of being sucked up by the filter.

The spawn

Change the water using cold water. The temperature of the water can safely drop 5 or six degrees. This prompts the parents to lay eggs. Repeat this process until they start to lay eggs.

The males and females swim up repeatedly with the males chasing the females. They eventually assume a T position. The man grabs the barbels of the woman with his pelvic fin. The female lays a package of eggs which she holds with her anal fins. The man fertilizes these eggs. There are two hypotheses about this. The male releases his sperm, which works its way through the female’s stomach and intestinal tract, after which it fertilizes the eggs. The second hypothesis is that the sperm swirls past the female and fertilizes the eggs.

The female now takes the package of eggs between the pelvic fins and sticks them in a suitable place. The eggs are usually stuck where the outflow of the filter is directed. Therefore, aim the outflow at the filter brush.

Chasing and laying eggs and sticking takes several hours. After spawning for an hour, move the filter brush to the grow-out tank and insert a new filter brush. Repeat this until the Corydoras paleatus have finished laying eggs. If you have several pairs in the aquarium, the number of eggs can reach several hundred.

Raising the Corydoras paleatus fry

The eggs hatch after about four days. You can roughly calculate the incubation period of Corydoras with this formula: 100 divided by the temperature is the number of days. By Corydoras paleatus it becomes: 100 divided by 23 degrees is just over four days.

The young Corydoras paleatus are very small and eat only the smallest food. The first two days they live on their egg yolk sac. After that, you can start feeding with microworms and infusoria. This is followed by powdered dry food and freshly hatched brine shrimp. Be sure to feed several times a day.

Water quality is important so siphon leftover feed so it doesn’t get moldy. Do this carefully so you don’t accidentally suck up the young fish. If you siphon off the water into a bucket, you can still rescue young fish that have been accidentally sucked up, from the bucket.

After about nine months the young Corydoras paleatus are sexually mature. Ready to take care of a new generation.


Corydoras paleatus is a fun, peaceful group fish. They are fairly hardy and therefore also suitable for the novice aquarium keeper. The temperature at which they must be kept is somewhat lower. Therefore choose tank mates that also needs a somewhat lower temperature. They are funny creatures that constantly scurry over the bottom, especially in a larger group they always attract attention.



John de Lange
G-j van Beek

Copyright images



Revisionary study of the armored catfish Corydoras paleatus (Jenyns, 1842) (Siluriformes: Callichthyidae) over 180 years after its discovery by Darwin, with description of a new species – Luiz Fernando Caserta TencattMarcelo Ribeiro de BrittoCarla Simone Pavanelli – Neotrop. ichthyol. 14 (01) – 2016
Wright, J.J. Diversity, phylogenetic distribution, and origins of venomous catfishes. BMC Evol Biol 9, 282 (2009).
Sound production and reproductive behaviour of the armoured catfish Corydoras paleatus (Callichthyidae) – Environmental Biology of Fishes 53:183-191,1998. – Inge Pruzsinszky & Friedrich Ladich.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Schliewen 1992

Bijgewerkt op 26 July 2023 door John

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